In Ritter’s debut thriller, a windfall of problems hits a trust officer, who may have uncovered embezzlement at his company while simultaneously infuriating a gang of racist bikers.
Jim Knight’s not a fan of David Walker, his condescending supervisor at Union Bank and Trust of Indiana. And Jim can’t understand why executive vice president and family friend Herbert Kelso indulges the alcoholic David’s often brazen behavior. Jim suspects misappropriation of funds when he and secretary Carla spot an unusual pattern in estates that David oversees, each balance ending in 99 cents. Jim’s latest case, meanwhile, is the estate of the recently deceased Jackson Whitingham, who had ties to the Ku Klux Klan. An inventory of Whitingham’s gun shop leaves Jim with more than 200 guns unaccounted for, sparking the interest of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. But the documents that Jim finds hidden in the shop are what put the trust officer at risk. It seems a motorcycle gang of KKK members desperately wants a ledger and is fairly sure that Jim has it stashed somewhere. Jim, who can only hope that Kelso isn’t part of the embezzling scheme, has retired private investigator Lowell Webster looking into the activities of David and a couple of potential accomplices at Union Bank. Jim is also steering clear of the gang and ensuring that Carla, whom he’s undeniably falling for, is safe. The protagonist, as the title suggests, is squeaky clean, but his resolve will win over readers. Right before he leaves to bravely confront KKK bikers, for example, Jim writes letters to his family and Carla—“just in case.” Carla isn’t much as a character beyond Jim’s love interest, but she does add to the man’s increasing sense of dismay. And there’s a lot to fear: a Union Bank employee turns up murdered; bikers trail Jim; and someone ransacks his apartment. The elderly Lowell is a standout character, getting a job at the Oasis Club just to keep an eye on David and company, while Lowell’s nephew Larry Broadwick gathers evidence using his computer hacking skills. Ritter couples his contemporary setting with occasional bits of outmoded but droll dialogue: regarding Carla, ATF agent Bill Holt asks Jim, “Is she your steady?”
The hero’s cautious but no pushover, intrepidly facing the engaging story’s multiple obstacles.